Thursday, December 10, 2015

19th Virginia Infantry: Battles of South Mountain and Sharpsburg

Continued from 19th Virginia Infantry: Second Manassas:

There is a gap in the muster rolls for the 19th Virginia Infantry from September 1862 through June 1863. That gap leaves many questions. Was John Thomas Jennings wounded during that time? Did he fall prey to disease? Or was he with the regiment the entire time. When did Charles Edward recover from his illness and return to the regiment? When did Daniel Rose and Leroy Powhatan recover from the wounds they received at the Battle of Gaines' Mill and return to the unit? We know both were back in time for Gettysburg when the muster rolls are again available.

My assumption is that John Thomas Jennings remained with the regiment as there are no medical records to support another conclusion.  So he likely marched away from the battlefield where the Battle of Second Manassas was fought with the rest of the 19th Virginia Infantry.

They were to move into Maryland, enemy territory. Union troops had occupied Harpers Ferry earlier in August. This move blocked one of General Lee's routes of communication with Richmond and denied the Confederate army the opportunity to resupply outside of the war-torn area of Virginia. To combat the Union in the Shenandoah Valley, Lee conceived the Maryland Campaign. Stonewall Jackson and his men were sent to dislodge enemy troops from Harpers Ferry while Longstreet's corps, including the 19th Virginia Infantry, were sent north.

After crossing the Potomac River, Pickett's division camped along the Monocracy River in Maryland near the Baltimore & Ohio railroad bridge outside of Frederick and enjoyed a week of camp life likely with plenty to eat as this part of the country had yet to experience war.

Confederate soldiers marching through Frederick, Maryland, September 1862;
courtesy of the Historical Society of Frederick County

There had been riots in Baltimore and President Lincoln had to travel through the city in disguise on the way to his inauguration. Longstreet's men assumed they would be welcomed and marched singing, "Maryland, My Maryland." The 19th Virginia Infantry book relates a humorous story:

"One lady with an American flag pinned to her bosom was particularly obvious [among the crowd]. Seeing this golden opportunity, a soldier of the 19th halted, bowed and remarked, 'We are in the habit of charging breastworks wherever we see that flag floating'."

By 12 September Longstreet's corps was camped around Hagerstown on the Williamsport Road. A surprise order required them to turn back and make a forced march back along the Frederick-Hagerstown Road in order to meet a Union army approaching South Mountain. The men marched over 13 miles on the 14 September in hot weather on dusty, hard-packed dirt roads. They were exhausted as they climbed to the ridge above Turner's Gap, one of three gaps in the South Mountain chain where three battles were fought that collectively became known as the Battle of South Mountain.

Union soldiers advance up South Mountain near Turner's Gap; image
courtesy of the U.S. Army

The 19th Virginia Infantry faced withering fire from the enemy concealed behind a stone fence above them. After an hour of fierce fighting one-third of their number had become disabled and their officer, Colonel Strange, fell mortally wounded. They were ordered to retreat soon after. The men of the 19th had experienced their first taste of defeat, but it would not be their last. Another was soon to follow.

Longstreet's corps was ordered to meet the rest of Lee's army near Sharpsburg.[1] Antietam Creek flowed east of town and provided a natural defense. Two of Union general McClellan's men had intercepted an order from Lee. McClellan now knew that Lee's forces were divided and rushed to defeat Longstreet before he could rejoin the rest of Lee's army.

The 19th Virginia Infantry was now part of brigade commanded by Richard B. Garnet and part of a division commanded by David R. Jones. They still fought with Longstreet's corps.

The battle began about 5:30 a.m. the morning of 17 September as the Union attacked the center of the confederate line. At 10:00 a.m. Union general Burnside began an attack toward the position General Jones' division, including the 19th, defended. Jones only had 3,000 men and 12 guns available to meet Burnside and his 12,500 men. Luckily, Burnside's attack was delayed trying to negotiate Antietam Creek when a stone bridge became a bottleneck. This gave the Confederates time to reinforce Jones' division with an additional 3,000 men. The Union forces, however, were able to force Jones' men back to within 200 yards of the town of Sharpsburg.

'Battle of Antietam," a lithograph by Kurz & Allison; image courtesy of
the Library of Congress

Jones' much depleted ranks broke and ran through Sharpsburg in a panic. Many of Burnside's men broke and ran as well. Burnside said, "I can do nothing more. I have no infantry." He ordered a retreat, making official what was already occurring at several points in his line. And so at about 5:30 p.m., the battled ended. It was bloodiest single day in American history. 22,717 men were dead, wounded or missing.

The next morning Lee's troops prepared to defend against a Union assault but it never came. Under truce flags, the armies buried their dead and took wounded soldiers to nearby field hospitals. Not long after, Lee began withdrawing his army back across the Potomac.

Confederate dead ready for burial after the Battle of Sharpsburg. Photograph
by Alexander Gardner; image courtesy of the Library of Congress

The men of the 19th Virginia Infantry looked forward to winter camp. The effective strength of the regiment had dropped sharply in 1862 from nearly 500 to fewer than 50 men.

To be continued...

[1] Also known as the Battle at Antietam, which was the Union name of the battle.

Jennings, Charles E. (my great grandfather), Private, Co. H; enlisted 1 March 1862 at Amherst courthouse; Present until detailed 18 May 1863 to General Hospital in Lynchburg on surgeon's certificate; absent there through last roll August 1864.

Jennings, Daniel R. (my first cousin three times removed), Corporal, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst Courthouse; age 20, farmer; Private to 4th Corporal by August 1863; 4 Corporal to 3rd Corporal by October 1863; 3rd Corporal to 2nd Corporal by February 1864; Present until wounded at Ganes Mill on 27 June 1862; returned, wounded in action at Gettysburg on 3 July 1863; sent to Lynchburg Hospital; absent, detailed on government work, dropped as non-commissioned officer from 16 April 1865. Surrendered at Appomattox, pension in 1910.

Jennings, John T. (my great grand uncle), Private, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst Courthouse, age 23, farmer; present through last roll 31 December 1863.

Jennings, Leroy P.  (my first cousin three times removed), Corporal, Co. I; enlisted 29 April 1861 at Buffalo Springs; age 19, farmer; Private to 3rd Corporal by August 1863; 3rd Corporal to 2nd Corporal by October 1863; Present till wounded at Gaines Mill on 27 June 1862; returned; wounded in action and taken prisoner of war on 3 July 1863 at Gettysburg; gunshot in right lung; paroled at General Hospital West's Building in Baltimore on 25 September 1863; returned to duty by February 1864; through last roll August 1864.

Jennings, Samuel H. (my first cousin three times removed), Private, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst courthouse; age 24, farmer; Present until discharged discharged on 12 September 1861 by order of General Beauregard, surgeon's certificate, listed disease was smallpox. Pension 1900.

Mapping the 19th Virginia Infantry: August-September 1862
19th Virginia Infantry: Battle of Second Manassas
19th Virginia Infantry: Seven Days Battles
19th Virginia Infantry: Peninsula Campaign
Mapping the 19th Virginia Infantry: January-August 1862
19th Virginia Infantry: First Winter Camp
Mapping the 19th Virginia Infantry: 1861
19th Virginia Infantry: First Blood at Manassas
A Lover, Not a Fighter

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